With less than two weeks to reopening of schools, there is a sharp contrast in the preparedness to host junior secondary between public and private primary schools.
A spot check by The Standard established that a majority of the private primary schools are steps ahead of most public schools in their readiness for the pioneer junior secondary class.
Although a majority of the public primary schools that have been assessed by government officials have been approved to host junior secondary schools, their level of preparedness remains wanting.
The schools are now looking for every available room to convert into a class, laboratory, or space for specialized learning areas within their premises or neighbouring public secondary schools.
Most of the public schools around the country do not have enough infrastructure and space to accommodate facilities such as laboratories.
While private institutions have made notable investments in the required physical infrastructure, education officials maintain that this is not the main yardstick for the level of preparedness.
In Nakuru, County Director for Education Fred Osewe says among the parameters being checked are registration status, available land, physical infrastructure, water, electricity, and human resource.
“Schools in urban areas should have at least one acre of land, four acres for those in peri-urban and rural high-density areas and up to six acres for schools in rural low-density areas,” said Osewe.
In the first two days of assessment, Osewe said that the team visited over 200 schools across the county most of which he said were ready to host junior secondary.
“152 out of 157 public and 55 out of 94 private primary schools visited on Tuesday and Wednesday are ready for enrollment of junior secondary school students. This indicates a high level of preparedness,” said Osewe.
He said that most public primary schools are only facing the challenge of space for additional and specialized learning areas introduced under the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC).
The specialized learning areas include general science, home science, art and craft some of which require laboratories for students’ practical lessons.
“In our first two days assessment, nearly all schools have demonstrated how they intend to bridge this gap which includes partnering with the neighbouring public schools,” said Osewe.
Citing the hundred per cent transition policy, Mr Osewe assured the residents that all Grade Six candidates will transit to junior secondary, adding that the county has 880 public and an estimated 400 private schools.
“No child will be left out on account of lack of physical infrastructure. The emphasis is on learners and the facilitators of learning and never on the physical infrastructure,” said Osewe.
He noted where a facility will face a total lack of alternative rooms to convert, local arrangements for tents are likely to be made to ensure the children are not denied their right to education.
This is in contrast to some of the private facilities such as Roots Academy, Kagaki School and Gilgil Hills Academy which have established entirely separate schools for junior secondary.
“It required a heavy investment but we were lucky to have set it up earlier and leased it as a branch of one of the public universities. We have since converted it into our junior secondary,” said Roots Academy headteacher Collins Odhiambo.
Odhiambo counts the school lucky as it already has three laboratories, a kitchenette for Home Science, a theatre hall for Performing Arts and Visual Arts and hostels for the boarding students.
“We had 232 Grade Six learners and 82 new admissions who will be our pioneer Grade Seven class. We had to recruit new teachers in line with the requirements for Junior Secondary,” said Odhiambo.
At Kagaki School, the facility has partnered with donors who have aided them in setting up a fully equipped computer lab which will come in handy for the learners.
James Kinyua, a deputy director at the school, said that the sudden change in plans on where junior secondary schools would be hosted jolted their minds in setting up the necessary infrastructure.
“We wanted to retain all our learners. We immediately began converting existing rooms and setting up new ones for the Grade Seven learners. We are at an advanced stage of constructing science laboratories,” said Kinyua.
The school has already set up greenhouses, and dairy and poultry sections that will be used for agriculture-related studies.
“Some of our teachers had degrees which is a requirement for one to teach in junior secondary and will transition once we reopen. We recruited more staff and trained them on CBC,” said Kinyua.
Cephas Mwangi, the headteacher at Gilgil Hills Academy says that they had already set up a secondary school earlier but were yet to launch it before the government announced the changes.
“We have renovated the classrooms and labs which have been idle for some time ready to admit junior secondary. We have separate uniforms and distinct compound for the primary and junior secondary,” said Mwangi.
The situation, however, is different for public schools.
“Being in a slum area, we had five streams of each grade. All the Grade Six pupils will come back for Grade Seven and all we have are their initial classrooms,” said a headteacher at one of the schools in Nakuru town.
The headteacher added that being one of the most populous schools in the area, they will be forced to partner with other schools for the specialized rooms and labs.
“We have two secondary schools within our one-kilometer radius. Should the Ministry approve us to host Grade Seven, we shall seek their support since these are all government facilities,” said the headteacher.
Another headteacher at a school in a neighbouring estate explained that their main challenge would be on qualified teachers.
“We have a sister secondary school which we started eight years ago and they are willing to allow us use their facilities. We, however, need additional and qualified teachers,” said the school head.
She added that they are pegging their hopes on the ongoing national teachers’ recruitment drive without which they will find it challenging to effectively run a junior secondary.
“The learners we have are from humble backgrounds. Their parents strive to provide for their families. Burdening them with the hiring of Board Of Management teachers will be too much for them,” she added.
Mr Osewe, the county director of education, said that some of the concerns raised would be addressed by the Ministries of Education and the of Coordination of National Government.
“Sharing of facilities won’t be a new thing. Afraha Secondary for instance is overflowing with students. The extra students have been learning from the vacant classes in the neighbouring Kenyatta Primary and only go back to their school for lunch and practical lessons,” said Osewe.
In Nyanza, our team established that only a handful of schools are ready to host the Grade Seven learners.
However, there was a beehive of activities in some of the schools as their administrations made the final preparations for the transition.
In Migori county, a number of schools were working to complete the construction of new classrooms.
A number of public schools also claimed they are prepared for the transition and are now only waiting for the learners.
Migori primary school’s head teacher Moses Maranda noted that they were well prepared for the school reopening and reception of Junior Secondary learners.
“On Monday next week, we will be assembling the administrators of the school for the outlining of the school’s timetable,” Mr. Maranda said.
On Tuesday this week, the school was inspected by the ministry of education.
“We have enough classrooms and enough teachers.
The school has about 350 learners who sat their grade six examinations
At Rose Hill School, the construction of additional classrooms and a dormitory was in its final stages with the school optimistic that everything will be in place by the time schools reopen.
“We are in the final stages of our preparations. We are seriously working on infrastructure because this is what will support accommodation of the grade seven in the schools,” Mrs. Rose Misori, the director of the school said.
Momokoro academy director Tobais Were said they are proceeding with their preparations for the school reopening and accommodation of grade seven learners
The school has already prepared its computer labs and installed enough computers that will be enough for learning.
“We have dormitories ready and built latrines for the Junior Secondary learners,” Mr. Were said.
The school has also set aside classrooms that will accommodate their 69 learners who will be proceeding to Junior Secondary.
In Kisii, a number of schools decried the high cost of preparing for junior learners.
At Tracer Preparatory in Kitutu Central, the school has already put up four classrooms to host the Junior Secondary. Currently, they are putting up a computer and science laboratory.
School Director Jackson Ombati says the exercise is costly but they will endeavour to put up necessary facilities as per the requirements from the Ministry of Education.
“We have had more pupils coming in, every child wants to have his/her child join a performing school. We are spending huge resources to ensure that we have made our pupils comfortable for learning.”
At Excel Elementary School in Bomachoge Borabu, the school has done four classes to accommodate class seven pupils.
The school Director Duke Abuga says they have also done two Computer Laboratory and Science laboratories. “We are set for the opening of school. It is a whole new set of experiences and we hope to achieve the best.”
Western Kenya Private Schools Association chairperson Ruth Minish, who is also the director of Kakamega-based Fesbeth Academy, said the schools have put in place the required facilities to enable the transition.
“Majority of the schools have put in place requisite facilities including classrooms and laboratories in anticipation of the rollout of junior secondary,” said Ms Minish.
[Kennedy Gachuhi, Anne Atieno, Eric Abuga, Robert Amalemba]